Catholic Colleges in Trojan Condom Report Challenged to Defend Church Teaching

Catholic colleges have a moral obligation to defend the dignity of all human life and should ensure that their sexual health resources do not contradict Church teaching, Brother Ignatius Perkins, O.P., director of health services for the Dominican Friars, Province of St. Joseph, and former dean of the School of Nursing at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tenn., told The Cardinal Newman Society.

In early November, the annual Sexual Health Report Card released by condom-maker Trojan ranked 140 major campuses — nine of which were Catholic colleges — on their access to sexual health information and resources including contraception and condoms. The inclusion of the nine Catholic colleges has again raised the issue of how and why contraception and condoms are available on many Catholic campuses despite its direct contradiction of Church teaching.

“I firmly believe that, if institutions of higher education claim to be Catholic, they have a strategic responsibility and a moral mandate to teach and defend Church teaching and to not be bashful in engaging the prevailing culture and helping to evangelize it,” Br. Perkins stated. “While decisions to use contraceptives, for example, is the moral choice of individuals, Catholic colleges have the serious responsibility and obligation to help students form their moral conscience.”

He added, “For a Catholic college to provide access to condoms, contraceptives, Planned Parenthood Services or the services of agencies that violate the dignity and integrity of the marital act to any member of the community of a Catholic college can be considered intrinsically evil and contrary to Church teaching.”

The Catholic colleges listed in Trojan’s latest ranking include Villanova University, DePaul University, Georgetown University, Boston College, Marquette University, Seton Hall University, St. John’s University-NewYork, University of Notre Dame and Providence College.

The Newman Society contacted these colleges about their inclusion in the sexual health rankings and to verify if the resources that are promoted and are available violate Church teaching. Those colleges that responded provided little detail about health center policies.

“This is not a report we’re familiar with or are paying particular attention to,” Chris Jenkins, associate director of University communication at Marquette, told the Newman Society.

Thomas Nary, director of University Health Services (UHS) and Sports Medicine at Boston College, stated in an email to the Newman Society that Trojan clearly has a “vested interest” in publicizing the rankings, adding that it is “unlikely that UHS will be changing policy and therefore will not be ‘moving up’ in the rankings.”

Spokespersons and health centers of the other Catholic colleges listed in the Trojan survey did not respond to the Newman Society by time of publication.

At Georgetown, the initial reaction to the report was one of disappointment — not at its inclusion on the list but at its falling in the rankings from the previous year.

“We have not changed anything regarding how we offer access to sexual health services,” James Marsh, director of Georgetown’s Student Health Center reportedly stated in an email to The Hoya. “I am puzzled as to why we fell in the rankings.”

Marsh suggested that Georgetown’s affiliation as “a Catholic institution” negatively impacts the University and could be an explanation for its fall in the sexual health rankings.

The University should be providing more sexual health resources than it already is doing, Marsh told The Hoya, adding that the “lack of resources is mitigated by unofficial student groups, such as H*yas for Choice, but the need is not fully addressed.”

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the USCCB, the Church teaches that in the conjugal act a couple should always be open to life and never “act to suppress or curtail the life-giving power given by God.” Any means that would close the couple to the possibility of life, such as contraception, condoms or sterilization, would be considered objectively immoral.

In August, the Newman Society released a special investigative report, “A More Scandalous Relationship: Catholic Colleges and Planned Parenthood,” which detailed connections between the colleges and the nation’s largest abortion provider, including numerous instances of colleges directing students to Planned Parenthood centers for contraception and other “sexual health resources.”

Br. Perkins suggested the reason some Catholic colleges are providing or directing students to contraception and condoms without regard to the Church’s teaching on marriage and sexuality has to do with the aftermath of the sexual revolution coupled with moral relativism, which has become “an insidious and an infectious ‘virus’ that can dehumanize individuals and destroy family life.”

Given the rich understanding that the Church has on marriage, sexuality and human dignity, he suggested, Catholic colleges should not be ashamed of their identity but rather should have a positive two-fold response: policy and education.

“This responsibility extends to working collaboratively with others to advocate for change in existing legislation,” including any policies that compromise religious freedom or violate the dignity of the human person, Br. Perkins said.

In addition to the colleges and their respective health centers having clear and ready policies to govern sexual health resources, the colleges can use Church documents to help inform the policies and to educate students, staff and faculty, he proposed.

“I believe that students, faculty, staff, administration and alumni of Catholic Colleges could benefit from an active and integrated study of Church documents, for example, Humanae Vitae, Donum Vitae, Ex corde Ecclesiae, Evangelium Vitae and the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.

“From there, decisions about policies, procedures and the availability of sexual health resources should develop,” he said. “The outcomes of these discussions [ought] to be found in the College’s mission and embedded in a core curriculum. Without any theological grounding in Church teaching, colleges may be tempted to offer a series of vending machines options that feature sexual health resources.”

When it comes to sexual health resources and Catholic identity, it is also a matter of truth in advertising, Br. Perkins noted. To act otherwise would be contradictory to the nature of a faithful Catholic college.

“Catholic Colleges as centers for education and formation have the critical responsibility to proclaim truth, which is Jesus himself,” said Br. Perkins. “Parents send their children to Catholic colleges to be formed in this truth so that they can claim their proper place in the Church and society and continue the Church’s work of evangelization.”

“Parents are the chief stewards of the lives of their children and have a right to know and understand the theological mission of the Catholic college so that their children are well formed in the faith and its practice,” he continued. “The array of services provided by the Catholic College is the evidence that parents need to support the enrollment of their children.”

But Br. Perkins cautioned parents and future students to be careful and to do their due diligence when seeking out an ideal Catholic college.

“As informed consumers, parents ought not to simply presume that the educational and formative culture of a Catholic college always and in every instance complies with Church teaching,” he said.

The faithful Catholic colleges listed in the Newman Guide are recommended, in addition to other factors, for their fidelity to Church teaching and respect for human life in their respective policies, residence life, classes and health centers.

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